Alex Ovechkin(notes), Alexander Semin(notes) and Nicklas Backstrom(notes) are three reasons why the Washington Capitals in recent years have boasted a prolific offense that most opponents aren’t thrilled about facing.
The Minnesota Wild barely bat an eye when the matchup takes place at home.
The Wild look to remain unbeaten against the Capitals in St. Paul when the teams meet Thursday night for the only time in 2010-11.
Washington (6-3-0) has finished atop the Southeast Division each of the last three seasons with Ovechkin, Semin and Backstrom combining for eye-popping totals of 340 goals and 454 assists. The trio, though, have been minor factors throughout their respective careers at the Xcel Energy Center, where Minnesota is 5-0-0 all-time against Washington.
Ovechkin, a two-time league MVP, has one goal and one assist in two games, Semin has scored once in two games, and Backstrom has found the back of the net one time in his only appearance in Minnesota.
Backstrom, who had a goal and three assists in his first eight games, broke out Wednesday with two third-period tallies to lift Washington to a 3-0 victory at division rival Carolina. Ovechkin assisted on Backstrom’s first goal midway through the third period that made it 2-0, but failed to score for the fifth straight game.
Still, Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau thinks things could be changing.
“For Nicky to get a goal, for Ovie to get an assist, you see them pressing and you see them cheating a little bit, trying to get the offensive goal,” he said. “Maybe that’ll bring them back to playing like they normally can.”
Michal Neuvirth(notes) made 29 saves for his first NHL shutout, improving to 6-2-0 with a 2.18 goals-against average. Neuvirth, who has been the starter while Semyon Varlamov(notes) recovers from a groin injury, has never faced Minnesota.
While it’s likely Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom(notes) - no relation to the Caps’ Backstrom - will start, it wouldn’t be surprising if coach Todd Richards goes with backup Jose Theodore(notes).
Theodore shared time with Valrlamov and Neuvirth while with Washington last season, and finished with the highest winning percentage (.761) among goalies with at least 40 regular-season starts after going 30-7-7 with a 2.81 GAA.
However, Theodore was 0-1 with a 3.70 GAA in two playoff games as the Capitals were upset by Montreal in seven games in the opening round.
Minnesota (3-3-2) will try to avoid a season-high third straight loss and get its power play back on track. After falling 5-1 in Vancouver on Saturday, the Wild lost 3-2 in a shootout at home against Los Angeles on Monday.
The Wild scored 12 times on their first 27 power-play opportunities this season, but are 0 for 8 in their last two games.
“Power plays are up and down,” center Matt Cullen(notes) said. “It’s a long season. Certainly we want to be better than we have the last two games. We have it in here. It’s just a matter of getting back to executing, getting more pucks to the net.”
Cullen, who spent much of the past three seasons with Carolina, has two goals and six assists in his last seven games versus the Capitals.